Cineplex to open massive new entertainment centre in downtown Vancouver

Jan 23 2019, 3:25 am

The Granville Entertainment District in downtown Vancouver is set to receive a huge boost, as a massive new entertainment centre is set to provide it with a beacon of new activity.

Daily Hive has learned that Cineplex is planning to retrofit the former Empire Granville 7 theatre complex at 855 Granville Street into the chain’s Rec Room entertainment centre concept.

This multi-level entertainment venue will take over the entire three-building, four-level complex spanning much of the city block. This will include a 61-person interior and 314-person capacity outdoor patio and games area on the third-level rooftop, and a 646-person capacity event and concert venue within the 11,500-sq-ft basement level.

There will be two restaurants, plus a variety of entertainment and electronic game playing options the Rec Room is known for.

Current condition:

Existing condition of Empire Granville 7 theatres at 855 Granville Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership)

Updated 2018 redevelopment design:

855 Granville Street Empire Granville 7

Updated 2018 exterior design of the Empire Granville 7 theatres redevelopment at 855 Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership / CBRE)

Altogether, the entire complex — including the 1893-built Palms Hotel and the 1938-built Paradise Theatre — spans 70,000-sq-ft of floor area. The Rec Room’s operational hours could extend to up to 3 am daily.

Empire Theatre shut down this seven-auditorium location in 2012, and the large space has sat vacant ever since.

A retrofit concept has been prepared by local architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership.

Cineplex’s recently launched Rec Room concept is known for containing features such as over 100 arcade games and simulators, a bowling alley, and a variety of dining options, including upscale restaurants and sports bars. This is essentially an evolution of the company’s former Playdium concept.

The sports bar at Cineplex’s The Rec Room in South Edmonton. (Cineplex)

The gaming area at Cineplex’s The Rec Room in South Edmonton. (Cineplex)

Some Rec Rooms are a part of Cineplex’s theatre locations, such as the upcoming Rec Room planned for the future The Amazing Brentwood shopping mall in Burnaby, which will span 64,700-sq-ft of floor area, including 20,700-sq-ft for a VIP Cinemas location with five auditoriums.

It is not known whether this location will also contain a handful of VIP Cinemas auditoriums, as this is a large theatre space that can certainly fit new auditoriums to diversify the offerings of the Rec Room.

But a Rec Room attached to a theatre complex is more of an exception amongst the brand’s growing number of locations across Canada, with Cineplex pursuing a standalone entertainment destination business model for the majority of them.

As well, placing theatres at this Rec Room would likely compete with Cineplex’s flagship Scotiabank Theatre — featuring nine auditoriums — at 900 Burrard Street, located only two blocks away.

The bowling alley at Cineplex’s The Rec Room in South Edmonton. (Cineplex)

rec room

CNW Group/Cineplex

A fitting comparison for the Granville Street Rec Room may be the Rec Room location that opened in 2017 at the historic Roundhouse Park in downtown Toronto.

This highly centralized location across from the CN Tower spans 40,000-sq-ft of floor area, with attractions such as nearly 100 arcade and virtual reality games, a 300-person capacity concert venue, a casual dining restaurant, a sports bar serving two dozen types of draft beer, and 80 television screens scattered across the whole space for the airing of sports events. This location does not have any theatre auditoriums.

There is no question that the Rec Room will provide this part of the Granville Entertainment District with a much-needed uplift.

Charles Gauthier, the President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, told Daily Hive: “This proposal is exciting for Granville Street and downtown as a whole. It is a game changer.”

“I believe that it will spur the redevelopment of other nearby properties, will complement recent announcements like Deloitte relocating to the Spaces building, formerly the Tom Lee Music building, and will diversify that southern portion of Granville Street from more than just a night-time destination.”

This is not the first time an entertainment centre has been proposed for downtown Vancouver.

Nearly two decades ago, Famous Players, now owned by Cineplex, envisioned an ambitious entertainment centre for Paramount Theatre — now known as Scotiabank Theatre. The original plans entailed 16 theatre auditoriums, an IMAX theatre, a 40-lane bowling alley, an indoor ice rink, 84,000-sq-ft of retail, 29,000-sq-ft of restaurant space, a large arcade, space for the National Film Board archive, a major hotel, and residential space.

However, after the property changed hands, the project’s entertainment complex scope was reduced to a smaller theatre and only ground-level retail and restaurants.

Daily Hive reached out to Cineplex for further details on the Granville Street Rec Room, but a spokesperson said they were unable to comment on this project at this time. The potential opening date for this new destination is not known.

Cineplex was planning to open its new location with regular and VIP Cinemas auditoriums at West Vancouver’s Park Royal shopping centre last fall, but construction delays have pushed the opening to this spring.

Metro Vancouver’s first Rec Room is anticipated to open at The Amazing Brentwood later this year.

Cineplex previously stated it plans to open up to 15 Rec Room locations across the country over the coming years, including further locations in Metro Vancouver after The Amazing Brentwood.

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